Al-Anon Lifer

Anonymous sharings from a long-time member of Al-Anon, which is a safe place to recover from the effects of alcoholism in a friend or relative...

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

God's Will for My Life?

I’ve spent most of my life trying to figure out God’s will for my life. Yet when I look back, I have managed to accomplish a few things of note: I’ve stayed married for 34 years, most of those to a practicing alcoholic; I raised three wonderful children who have all finished college and live fairly normal, happy lives; I’ve written and published two books and been published elsewhere in books, newspapers, and periodicals; and I’ve edited several books and articles for other authors. I also went back to college in my thirties while raising kids and keeping house. Most important, I’ve been a grateful member of Al-Anon for half my married life, doing service work and sponsoring others. So why do I feel unfulfilled?

Perhaps the problem is that I was told as a child and teenager that I should be either a concert pianist or Miss America; in other words, I should achieve greatness. But I was never good in front of an audience. In Junior High School, I froze when accompanying the choir in front of the student body and their parents. As an adult singing in church, I forgot the words halfway through and simply left the podium and went to my seat. Even today when I speak, I get very nervous even though I know my Greater Power is speaking through me. I never know what I say, although many people tell me afterward that I was really good and passed on the recovery aspect of the program.

Yet the life I’m living now in my fifties still feels empty. Why? Because I don’t think I’ve accomplished anything or do anything worthwhile. Why? Because I have this core belief that I haven’t fulfilled my destiny. I’m attempting to write another book, but every idea I come up with and start soon becomes dormant, one for almost twenty years now. Why? Well, it could be because my last two book projects did not do well and I’m afraid of failure again. Or because, as my sponsor tells me, maybe I’m not supposed to be a writer. Maybe what I’m doing with my life is God’s will. But what am I doing now? I’m retired, so I have no daily purpose other than to get up, pray and meditate, and take care of my chores and daily needs. I also connect with my family members, including my granddaughter, as well as other people in the program.

But it doesn’t feel like enough. It doesn’t feel fulfilling. Perhaps I need to look at my life with a new set of eyes. Perhaps I need to judge myself the same way I judge others. For example, who are the women in my life whom I admire the most? First, my sponsor, who was an elementary school teacher in her former life. She raised one child, has one grandchild, and cared for her mother (in her home) until her death. Most important, she has been in Al-Anon for three decades plus, attends meetings regularly, checks in with her sponsor, and sponsors many people herself. But has she achieved greatness? Not in the world’s microscope, but as far as I’m concerned, she strives daily to do God’s work by being the best person she can be and helping others to do the same.

Then there is my mother-in-law who is a loving and kind person. Yes, she worked and had a satisfying career, but her greatest achievement is her family which consists of eleven grandchildren and six great-grandchildren with two more on the way. They visit her often and care about her so much that they are planning a family reunion this Christmas. Everyone will be there. It is not an option. Not every woman has family that goes out of their way for them, but she does. Likewise, I have a grandma who at 102 still lives in her own home and has many people who drop by for a visit, even though her short-term memory keeps her from knowing who they are from one minute to the next. She is loved because she loved, unconditionally. I asked her several years ago what her secret was and she told me: I don’t hold grudges.

Grandma never achieved greatness, but she is indeed a great great grandmother. She never did anything of significance for me, but she did everything by loving me when neither of my parents seemed to be capable of providing that basic need. Even today, one of the first things she says when I visit her is: I love you. I believe she is still alive today to continue to pass on the importance of loving others, not just doing for others. My aunt, who lives next door to grandma and sees to her daily needs, does a lot for others. But she is another woman who refrains from judging them and attracts others to her home, simply by being a kind and generous person. I am staying in her home this week so she can enjoy a vacation with her husband. Taking care of Grandma is easy for me; it is the least I can do for both of these women.

Yet, I have big plans this week. I’m going to get that novel started. I brought my writing and research books with me. But instead, last night I spent pouring over written family histories I found in Grandma’s cupboard. Real life, it turns out, is more interesting than fiction. Perhaps I’ll write Grandma’s history instead of my novel. Or perhaps I won’t. Perhaps I’ll just blog more and enjoy my life the way it is. As my sponsor says: It is what it is. Perhaps I am achieving greatness by being here so my aunt can take a week off. After all, she’s in her eighties and never thought she’d still be caring for Grandma. Perhaps I am accomplishing the same thing these other great women in my life have accomplished: to love others the way they have been loved (even if they were mistreated at times). Perhaps what I am doing today is God’s will for my life. Perhaps this is enough. If it was for these other women, it can be for me.

I was inspired to blog this today when I saw this magnet on my aunt’s fridge, so I want to pass it on:


“What a concept,” my sponsor would say. Think about it. This day, what I am doing, how I am being, is all that matters. It is enough.

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Friday, November 23, 2007

Learning More About Sponsorship

I learned more about sponsorship this year, that it is important to tell your sponsees the truth even if it hurts - especially if they ask for help in a particular area. Yes, they do need encouragement, but they also need to grow. If a sponsee tells you they are stuck and you believe you know why, you should tell them.

Yes, it is hard. We want people to like us and be our friends. But we don't want them to "die" spiritually by letting them stay in the dark about their own behavior. It is the one thing they can change - even past behavior by admitting they were wrong, making amends, and moving on. We as sponsors need to be responsible.

After all, where would we be, where would I be, if my sponsor hadn't asked me at the end of a two-day fifth step if I had any "coffin nails" - things that will kill me. Yes, I had, and when I shared it, my life changed. I needed that push to tell the truth, to get rid of the big secret that was keeping me sick.

And so I need to "push" my sponsees, and yet do it gently in God's time, not mine. More often than not, when I share the truth as I see it with a sponsee, they come back later and thank me. I tell them I'm just the messenger, and that I learned just as much as they have. This passing it on is how we keep our recovery. It is courage in action. I encourage you out there to tell each other the truth, but remember: Say what you mean. Mean what you say. But don't say it mean.

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Monday, November 19, 2007

Cell Phones and God

Everyone seems to have one - a cell phone. Almost everyone is connected ALL the time. At most meetings now, someone's phone rings and they apologize as they dig for it to silence it.

It occured to me when I saw a new person with her pink cell phone on her lap, at the ready, that we as a society have become very attached to NOT being out of touch, even for a second.

How different we would be, I thought, if we were that in tune with God - that close to checking in with our thoughts, desires, and actions - and that available to hearing His/Her will for us -

Wouldn't it be nice...

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Saturday, November 17, 2007

Keep An Open Mind

Hello everyone. I've been blogging elsewhere but realized again last night how important it is to continue to share my Al-Anon story with anyone, anywhere, reaching out for help. We never know how our experience, strength, and hope (ESH) will touch others' lives. For example, I spoke at a speakers meeting last night. Honestly, I don't recall much of what I shared or the order of events in my story. I do know that my sponsor told me it was a good interweaving of my story and service work. And enough people told me it was a good talk, thanking me, that I must have spoken the words my Greater Power wanted me to speak.

I do remember talking about what I've learned recently about letting go and letting God, again, about letting go of trying to control my children was the first lesson I learned in Al-Anon. You see, we Al-Anons don't just try to control the alcoholics in our lives - we often try to control all the people, places, and things. That's what I was doing this fall. And I had gotten depressed over the whole situation, even angry at God that things weren't going my way. But God had a different plan than me, and it didn't unfold until I let go of the problem (or at least until my letting go let me see that God was working all along - my perception).

Then this week I was reading in some Al-Anon literature and read something "new" - that one of our slogans is "Keep An Open Mind" - it's even in our opening or closing. Even though I've been coming to meetings for a long, long time, and reading the literature, I had never really heard that slogan. How funny. We're just not ready until we are ready. So now my job is to figure out what "Keep An Open Mind" means for me. I do know that I come from a family that is extremely close-minded, and as such, so am I most of the time. It takes a long time for me to change my mind or learn a different side to the story.

The first opportunity I had for this was in my thirties when I started questioning my religion and certain beliefs that didn't make sense. I was in a class and the leader said that God loves us better than non-believers. My question was about God changing his love for us according to our actions if God stays the same. I was practically scolded and thus began my journey to find the God of my own understanding. That God, by the way, doesn't change. What does change is my concept of that God as I get to know Her better and better, as I let Her into my life and rely more and more on Her in my daily doings.

So "Keep An Open Mind" means, at this point in my recovery, to not put people, places, things , and God in box. Listen to others at a meeting, especially those you think are only rattling on and saying the same things week after week. You might just learn something. Something you don't know. No matter how long you've been going to meetings. Like I am learning this week, in this moment of time. It's one of those days that I have no plans after a very busy week. One of those uncomfortable places of asking my God to tell me what to do for Her today. So here I am, blogging again...

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